Random Asides

Apple’s New Racially Diverse Emojis Are Aliens in Disguise

Apple just released a new OS featuring an option to change the skin color of their emojis, which previously were all white. That’s great, right? What could possibly be secretly terrifying about that?

Well. My boyfriend, Adam, updated his phone before me, and (for apparently the first time ever) checked out the emoji options and started sending some to me:

emoji1

Because I hadn’t updated to the new OS, the black police officer (“Carl Winslow” to the internet) didn’t show up. In Carl’s place was a white cop… and an alien:

emoji2

He sent me a few other emojis with non-white skin just to test it, and sure enough, this:

emoji3

…came through as this:
emoji4

What could this possibly mean? Are the new emojis part of an alien conspiracy? Does Apple consider all non-white faces to be “illegal aliens”? Does this have anything to do with the NSA reading all our texts? PROBABLY.

Probably, you guys.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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12 Comments

  1. I think someone at Apple who is hard of hearing overheard some white supremacists talking about the coming race war and thought it was the coming space war, and is trying to warn everyone about it. Apologies to Emily Litella.

  2. Is there another color option? Because it looks like they used the alien as a modifier to change the original (BTW, that would have to be one of the biggest bonehead moves ever) and the other options may use a different modifier. BTW – What does it say that the original emoji were all white and that the new ones had to be “modified”, just writing that sentence make me nervous. Yuck.

    That whole paragraph is just weird.

    Plus, does Alien Modified Emojis sound like they should be opening for Fall Out Boy?

  3. >”What does it say that the original emoji were all white and that the new ones had to be “modified”

    I think some implementations have the unmarked emoji bright yellow, contrasting with the racially white emoji which have the emoji + white modifier. It could still be better, though, like with an ‘average’ skin tone or maybe even pick one randomly.

  4. At least they’re Grays and not Shape-shifting Lizards. Or would being Shape-shifting Lizards be empowering?

    P.S. I think the most likely explanation is that the emojis get stored and transmitted as a numeric emoji code number, not as a little GIF or JPEG or bitmap, and the old version of IOS displays unknown emoji codes as an alien rather than a mysterious number. Probably the only way to fix this would be to update the old version to display something else, like the phrase “unknown emoji code” instead of the little gray alien. But then you would have to update to get the new version, and if your going to do that, you’ll get all the new emojis anyway. So pointless.

    I thought for a bit that maybe the should open-source the emojis so we don’t just get some well-off white Californian man’s idea of what other people look like, but then realized this would leave it wide open for racist derogatory emojis. Maybe ALL emojis should be aliens, preferably green or blue. (Bug Girl for official emoji role model archetype! Yay!)

    1. “Fascinating”, to quote a famous green (or green-blooded) alien. Didn’t realize that emoji are Unicode characters, or that the plural of emoji is emoji. Also, there is a “live long and prosper” emoji: U+1F596 (or maybe #1F596?)

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